Review: Theatre Uncut 2014 at the Soho theatre (and then Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool)

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo  Jeremy Abrahams

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

There is a danger in talking about Theatre Uncut. Set in 2010 as a response to the public spending cuts announced by the coalition government, it challenges playwrights to write fast, raw and immediate about the world around them. 2010 is a lifetime ago, and back then we might have felt we would ride any difficulties the way we always did, persevering with our daily lives, semi-committed, occasionally thinking about the political but more often not. Four years later, things only got bleaker and more urgent, so hats off to Hannah Price and Emma Callander (co-artistic directors) because they knew back then what we all know now: thinking about political solutions is not something we can leave for later or to others.

But here is the danger: Theatre Uncut isn’t just worthy and important. It is theatre (the clue is in the title) and works perfectly fine as a theatrical event. The five plays performed are rough, fast, full of questions and storytelling ideas. Continue reading

REVIEW: If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, by Anders Lustgarten, at the Royal Court

if you don't let us dream“Everybody’s got an agenda”, says one of the characters towards the end of Anders Lustgarten’s new play “If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep”. It’s impossible to see the play, remember the line and resist the temptation to mention it in the review. Because Anders Lustgarten clearly has an agenda. Which is to say he has an opinion and a conviction. All fine ingredients for a play. The question remains: Do drama, insight, even provocation, match his conviction? Let’s see.

MAJOR SPOILERS. I won’t be able to make my case without plot spoilers, you have been warned.

The play starts when a government official comes across a great idea: if we monetise social unity and sell it as bonds, the private sector will pick up the cost and create incentives to reduce social unrest. Cue in scenes where bureaucracy and stupidity go hand in hand, money talks, people become numbers on a form. Early on, the play, with short jump cuts and scenes not necessarily related to each other, is reminiscent of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, but without the grace and piercing intellect. Continue reading